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Backgrounding Calves with Corn Again

December 12, 2013
corn harvest neb 2013
This fall with the price of corn predicted around $4/bu., it may once again be an affordable energy source.   

By Karla Jenkins, UNL Cow/Calf, Range Management Specialist

In recent years the price of corn has pushed cattle producers backgrounding calves to seek other energy feed options.

This fall with the price of corn predicted around $4/bu., it may once again be an affordable energy source. Producers developing a winter backgrounding program may choose to incorporate corn into diets for growing calves.

It is important to remember that while corn is a good energy source, unlike distillers grains, corn is high in starch. In order for bacteria in the rumen to digest starch effectively, adequate rumen degradable intake protein (DIP) must be supplied. This need can easily be met by providing a protein supplement that has urea added to increase the overall protein content of the supplement as well as the DIP.

Additionally, the energy value of corn is lower in low quality forage based diets than it is in finishing diets. This is due to the negative associative effects of starch on fiber digestion in the rumen of cattle on forage based diets. Unlike small grains, corn can be fed whole. This is an added benefit for producers wishing to use corn grown and stored at the same location as the calves.

The amount of corn necessary to achieve the desired gain will depend greatly on the quality and quantity of the available forage and protein sources. Producers are encouraged to send their feed samples to a commercial laboratory for nutrient analysis and contact extension personnel for assistance with ration balancing.

Additional information can be found in the NebGuide G2064 Wintering and Backgrounding of Calves.

For more UNL Beef information go to

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